VERNON – Baker’s one-two punch of Adam Crowson and D.J. Thomas teamed up for 274 yards rushing and five touchdowns as the Gators closed out the 2012 football season with an impressive 42-20 over Vernon.
Crowson led Baker with 155 yards rushing on 12 carries and had two touchdowns. Thomas led the way scoring with three touchdowns and added 119 yards on the ground. Richard Stroheker, who picked up 48 yards rushing on five carries, scored the other Gator TD.
Thomas finished the season with 1,095 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns. The good news for the Gator faithful is that Thomas is just a junior and will be back for the 2013 season.
The win improved Baker’s record to 6-4. This year’s winning record coupled with a 7-3 mark in 2011 gives the Gators their first back-to-back winning seasons since 2000-2001.
“These guys right here worked hard and had a great year, Baker coach Matt Brunson said. “I can’t say enough about this senior class that has been with me for two years now. The foundation they laid is going to have a lot to do with the success with have in the future.
“The future is very bright and we’ve great kids coming back and I’m proud of these guys and they finished strong. They understand you work hard and if you work long enough and hard enough good things will happen and tonight was an example of that.”
It took Baker just two possessions to establish the running game. Crowson made his only mistake of the night on the first Gator drive when he threw an interception on a third down and long play. But the Baker defense got the ball right back when Andrew Allen recovered a fumble for the second week in a row.
Setting up shop on the Yellow Jacket 39 the Gators ran the ball six times with Thomas getting five of the carries. Thomas took the ball in from 20 yards out with 4:52 left in the first quarter and Malcolm Griffith kicked the first of his six extra points. Up 7-0 Bake never trailed.
A 6-yard touchdown run by Crowson with a minute left in the first quarter was followed by a 27 yard run by Thomas less than a minute into the second quarter.
The Thomas touchdown came after Chasen Holt recovered an onside kick for the Gators.
Vernon (1-9) found running the ball tough against the Gator defense as the Yellow Jackets finished the game with 11 yards rushing on 26 carries.
What Vernon was able to do is throw the ball as quarterback Tristan Porter looked speedy receivers Austin Brown, Alex Andrews and Cody Harmon to ignite the Yellow Jacket offense.
Porter, who finished the game with 166 yards through the air, got the Yellow Jackets on the scoreboard on a 41-yard pass to Brown with 9:17 left in the first half.
The score remained 21-7 until early in the third quarter when Stroheker broke a 15-yard run to the end zone with 7:29 left in the quarter.
Down by three scores the Yellow Jackets went back to the air. A 35-yard scoring pass from Porter to Harmon with 3:51 left in the third quarter cut the Baker lead in half. With less than a minute left in the quarter Harmon hit Andrews with a 57-yard touchdown catch and run. The extra point was wide and that’s as close as Vernon got.
Thomas finished off his big night with a 1-yard plunge with 10:29 left in the fourth quarter to put the Gators up 35-20. Crowson, a senior, capped his career with a 35-yard scoring run with 5:43 left in the fourth to put the game out of reach. Crowson’s score came after Taylor Carlisle recovered a Vernon fumble and returned it 15 yards from the Baker 20-yard line to the Gator 35.
Crowson scored five plays Carlisle recovered the fumble.
Senior offensive lineman Taylor Brown walked off the field for the last time with a smile on his face and the knowledge that he has been a part of future successes the Gator could enjoy and in helping Thomas crack the 1,000 yard mark rushing.
“We set the foundation for years to come and I’m just proud to be a part of this team,” he said. “I’m not trying to be conceited, but it’s been our offensive line that allowed is to run the ball so well.
“We have a strong bunch of guys and they’ve got a good bunch coming back next year so they will be able to run it next year too.”